It makes me understand why parents like places like Disney World so much. It’s like automatic engagement. You don’t have to worry about entertaining your kids; it’s simply a function of the location. But in Mexico, time and again we saw families with bored kids (or kids playing their Nintendo DS while sitting on 12th century ruins), and frustrated parents who just wanted a moment to appreciate where they were without being asked when they could go swimming again.
There was one exception, a Canadian family with teenagers that stayed at our retreat. A Mayan language class was held to get us closer to the Mayan culture and the kids just ate it up. Again, it’s kids like these that make me think, sometimes, that raising kids might not be all bad (again, if you got lucky enough to get a good one). The boy, 16, had a natural aptitude for language acquisition and was asking all the right questions. It was remarkable! He and his 15-year-old sister were very mature and very friendly, unlike the sobbing toddlers and whiny pre-teens who passed through the retreat over the course of the week. These were kids who got it, who appreciated where they were, the opportunities to learn and the good fortune they had to be traveling through Mexico on their winter break. It was a site so rare.
A woman I work with was extremely jealous of my trip. “Before I had kids I traveled all over the world, I lived overseas for awhile and I loved it.” Her voice then kind of broke, filled with what sounded like regret. “I really, REALLY miss it.” Of course she loves her kids, but no one thinks about that kind of regret when they ask us, the childfree, if we’re going to regret not having children. Y’know what, maybe we will, but we won’t regret not seeing the world the way we wanted to, or not having enough time for each other. Life is full of choices and regrets, and our choice to travel fulfills in a way children would not.
The mere fact that children would have made it impossible for us to take this trip to the Yucatan, compelling us to stay in a more “comfortable” hotel (read: one with a TV) rather than the eco-lodge that bored the tears out of the kids who stayed there with us, pressuring us to skip the cultural tours of the villages in favor of more swimming in the pools… we may have taken the trip, if we could have even afforded to fly as a family, but it would have been completely different, filled with something other than the magic we felt while we were there. Traveling as a couple suits us, and we eagerly look forward to our next trip: to London to visit a friend who’s taken an assignment there, and off to Budapest, Hungary, the home of my own ancestors.